Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE
#6: Andrew Knizner, C
6’1”, 200 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right
DOB: 3 February 1995, Drafted Rd 7 2016
Level(s) in 2017: Peoria (Low A), Springfield (Double A)
Notable Numbers: 4.7% BB, 11.5% K, .201 ISO, 124 wRC+ (Peo), 6.9% BB, 13.4% K, .137 ISO, .355 BABIP, 133 wRC+ (Mem)
So, what’s so great about this guy?
In the 2016 draft, the Cardinals took two mid-round shots on college catchers, both of whom I was very intrigued by. One of them, Jeremy Martinez, came out of USC with one of the most well-developed batting eyes of any player I think I’ve ever seen, had tons of success right out of the gate, and then crashed and burned this season due to an inability to make any kind of impactful contact whatsoever. The other was Andrew Knizner. Things went better for him this year.
I won’t swear to it, but Knizner looked in 2017, to me at least, to be in better condition than he had been in college. A little slimmer, a little stronger, and really moved around well behind the plate. He looks good blocking balls in the dirt, looks good receiving pitches, and while he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, he gets rid of the ball in a hurry and overall appears to be at least an average catch and throw guy. All of that is extremely encouraging, and doubly so because of how much progress he seemed to show in his first full season in pro ball.
It’s in the batter’s box that Knizner is really the most exciting, though. He’s the offensive yin to Carson Kelly’s defensive yang, and it will be fascinating to see how the catching prospect drama plays out in the Cards’ system over the next handful of years.
Knizner has an easy, simple swing that generates tons of line drive contact. Some players simply have a natural feel for the barrel of the bat, and he appears to be one of those to me. The power in Peoria was surprising, and actually watching Knizner hit I feel like he’s much more of an all-fields, line drive hitter than a big power guy going forward. He’s great at going the other way when being pitched away, but has the hand speed to turn on inside velocity as well. He’s not the most patient hitter, which I would like to see him work on, but he’s such a natural at making contact I don’t worry overmuch about his ability to get on base.
The Cardinals haven’t had much luck developing catching prospects over the past fifteen years, which is surprising given how much emphasis they put on the position. With Knizner and Carson Kelly, though, the Redbirds have two very intriguing such prospects, and how they decide to use those two assets in the coming years is going to be a very interesting story. Kelly is the more polished defender, while Knizner is the more natural hitter, and has shown significant aptitude for improvement at the position. If pressed, at this moment I might actually say I personally prefer Knizner, even though I have Carson Kelly a few spots higher on this list for being closer to a finished product.
If he’s good, it will look like: The ease of contact and solid glovework Knizner brings to the table puts me in mind of Kurt Suzuki, though I think Knizner should hit for more power than Suzuki has. I have a hard time going as far as the all-around excellence of Russell Martin, particularly because so much of catching is barely visible (i.e. pitch framing, etc.), and I’m just not a great scout of catchers, but Knizner’s ceiling is something in that neighbourhood, at least.